Disinformation services

According to the Timaru Herald, Augie Auer has comprehensively “debunked” global warming:

Climate change will be considered a joke in five years time, meteorologist Augie Auer told the annual meeting of Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers in Ashburton this week. Man’s contribution to the greenhouse gases was so small we couldn’t change the climate if we tried, he maintained. “We’re all going to survive this. It’s all going to be a joke in five years,” he said.

Phew, that’s a relief.

Or is it? Let’s have a look at what NZ’s most prominent sceptic is arguing.

Water vapour was responsible for 95 per cent of the greenhouse effect, an effect which was vital to keep the world warm, he explained. “If we didn’t have the greenhouse effect the planet would be at minus 18 deg C but because we do have the greenhouse effect it is plus 15 deg C, all the time.” The other greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen dioxide, and various others including CFCs, contributed only five per cent of the effect, carbon dioxide being by far the greatest contributor at 3.6 per cent. However, carbon dioxide as a result of man’s activities was only 3.2 per cent of that, hence only 0.12 per cent of the greenhouse gases in total. Human-related methane, nitrogen dioxide and CFCs etc made similarly minuscule contributions to the effect: 0.066, 0.047 and 0.046 per cent respectively. “That ought to be the end of the argument, there and then,” he said.

Augie is an atmospheric physicist, so you might expect him to get his numbers right. But he doesn’t. He asserts that water vapour is responsible for 95 percent of the total greenhouse effect. It isn’t, according to RealClimate, or the page about CO2 myths in New Scientist‘s new Climate change: A guide for the perplexed section (or the IPCC, etc, etc). Putting an exact number to the contribution of the various gases in the atmosphere to the greenhouse effect is not simple because they have overlapping effects – as you might expect an atmospheric physicist to know. New Scientist suggests:

A simplified summary is that about 50% of the greenhouse effect is due to water vapour, 25% due to clouds, 20% to CO2, with other gases accounting for the remainder.

Once that’s established, the remainder of Augie’s argument falls apart. Increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are driving climate change. It’s relatively simple physics, and it’s been understood – in some detail – for a very long time.

I wonder if there were any atmospheric physicists amongst the members of Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers who listened to Augie’s talk? I imagine not.

13 thoughts on “Disinformation services”

  1. Not to mention that he gives the mistaken impression that water vapour and CO2 function independently of each other. They don’t — water vapour is a feedback that magnifies forcings like CO2 and CH4.

    Great blog, by the way, Gareth, and I’m eagerly anticipating your upcoming book.

  2. One thing I meant to say, but forgot: I heard Augie Auer taking calls on ZB once, and I honestly don’t recall what stunned me more at the time: the simplistic level of the questions, or his awe-inspiring knockdown of climate computer models (“We can’t predict the way 20 days from now, how can we predict the climate decades in the future?”).

    Mind you, Richard Lindzen tried the same thing in Newsweek not too long ago.

  3. All these arguments are like Russian dolls. You knock ’em down, they bounce back up again. And if you succeed in knocking one off, there’s another inside waiting for you to try to knock it over… und so weiter.

  4. This is a comment I made in December 2006 on Kiwiblog to Owen McShane:

    …Let me quote you some extracts from an article in The New Zealand Herald, Tuesday, May 2, 2006 titled ‘Global warming just ‘hysteria’
    Subtitled: ‘Augie Auer hits out at ‘scientifically illiterate’ journalists and poor-science.

  5. Ref New Scientist

    “Finally, the claim is sometimes made that if computer models were any good, people would be using them to predict the stock market. Well, they are! A lot of trading in the financial markets is already carried out by computers. Many base their decisions on fairly simple algorithms designed to exploit tiny profit margins, but others rely on more sophisticated long-term models. Major financial institutions are investing huge amounts in automated trading systems, the proportion of trading carried out by computers is growing rapidly and some individuals have made a fortune from them. The smart money is being bet on computer models.”

    This is the most laugable argument I’ve heard yet to support the accuracy of climate models.
    Some people have made money, so they can be trusted.

  6. If I asked a question about every climate science technicality that I didn’t understand I’d be here all day, but this sounds vaguely serious…what does

    “I don’t see many people picking up on the IPCC for using MER for currencies instead of PPP which is a much more serious error than any in Augie’s phone interview”



  7. It’s nothing to do with the science, but concerns some of the economics underlying, IIRC, some of the scenarios used to generate GHG projections. They’ve moved on to global cooling now. It’ll be something else in a month.

  8. So. Has the Timaru Herald now confirmed itself as officially sceptic? [i mean that doesn’t surprise me, although they do run my letters from time to time].

    Was that an Editor who was supporting Augie Auer’s(RIP)line? … or just someone having a laugh..?

  9. It was a news report on a Fed Farmer’s meeting addressed by A Auer. I met the journalist who wrote it last year – he was astonished at how his little local story had whizzed round the world…

    (I am a little mystified by the comment that restarted this thread. It looks like spam – but surely the Timaru Herald isn’t resorting to spam to drum up readers? And the “FrontPages” site seems mainstream enough. Perhaps it just needs clickthroughs.)

  10. “It’ll be something else in a month.”

    In a way, it is sort of commendable that they are testing the AGW hypothesis, as any real scientist would…except that it doesn’t always seem to be IN the context of ‘real science’…

    – Always interesting to see what was written on this blog armed with a bit of hindsight…

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